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Illegal Migration Bill To Become Law, But Rebels Still Insist It's "Hostile And Unworkable"


4 min read

The controversial Illegal Migration Bill is set to become law having passed its final parliamentary stages, but there are still questions over its practicality from peers who had attempted to adapt it.

Among the amendments peers rejected were changes on rules relating to unaccompanied children, and compliance with international law, despite the Bill ultimately being approved by the Lords late last night.

Former Tory immigration minister Lord Timothy Kirkhope told PoliticsHome that he was “never happy with the Bill and I regarded it actually as unnecessary and unworkable”. 

Kirkhope said that he still believes it is "unworkable", and backed amendments to the Bill, including one that would have prevented the government from breaching international treaties, but recognised that it was "clearly" the will of MPs that it passes. 

“When it came to the extra return from the Commons I have concluded that it is clearly the will of the government and the Commons to have this regardless," he explained. 

“At that point I supported the government in order to dispose of it as quickly as possible back to the Commons and to the government.” 

Throughout the Bill's passage through parliament, ministers faced a number of rebellions from peers and backbench MPs in the Commons on issues including modern slavery, which is of particular concern to former prime minister Theresa May, however the government won the Commons votes. 

Labour peer Lord Alf Dubs called the bill “nasty” and said he does not think it will work in achieving its aims. 

“We’re left with something that is hostile to asylum seekers, hostile to human rights, which I don’t think will work,” he told PoliticsHome

“Everybody wants to stop the boats, everybody thinks we have to protect our borders, but I don’t think it’s workable, this particular bill. 

Dubs, who arrived in England as a child refugee fleeing Nazi persecution in Czechoslovakia in 1939, added:  “It will simply help the nasty people traffickers get more business, so I think it is an ill-thought out move, unprincipled and will take us nowhere.” 

The bill will now go for royal assent and later become law. 

It had been through a parliamentary process known as ‘ping-pong’, when a bill bounces between the two chambers, as it did here when the Lords made amendments to the legislation which were subsequently removed by MPs. 

Dubs told PoliticsHome that he had been expecting the bill to come back to the Lords again, and was “surprised” that it passed yesterday. 

“We were all lined up assuming we would win some of the amendments yesterday which we didn’t,” he explained.

“We were all lined up to go to the Commons this afternoon and then back to us tonight, so we thought we would go on doing this. 

“But given that the government got all of their people here [...] it was a disappointing outcome.” 

Lords sources have also said that there was a heavier whipping operation on the Tory side last night than there has been in previous voting sessions. 

Voting data on the Parliament website suggests that around 60 to 100 more Conservative peers were walking through the voting lobbies to disagree with amendments yesterday than there were last week. 

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman have repeatedly set out their desire to reduce illegal migration and stop small boat crossings as a government priority, of which the Illegal Migration Bill is a key part. 

This morning, Braverman thanked MPs and peers who helped it pass. 

She tweeted: “We are determined to stop the boats and ensure people don’t make the illegal and dangerous journey across the Channel.” 

Labour has said that the legislation will make the asylum system worse. 

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper added: “It fails to tackle the criminal smuggler gangs and makes it easier for traffickers. And it cancels asylum decision making with no return agreements in place so it will just increase the asylum backlog with even more people in costly hotels.”


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